Baltimore votes in mayoral primary a year
after Freddie Gray unrest
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[April 26, 2016]
(Reuters) - Baltimore voters cast
ballots in the Democratic nominating contest for mayor on Tuesday, with
a Maryland state senator leading a crowded field a year after rioting
sparked by a black man's death in police custody.
Tuesday's primary vote in the overwhelmingly Democratic city of
620,000 people comes as Baltimore recovers from the unrest that
stoked a simmering U.S. debate on police treatment of minorities and
prompted the current mayor to decline to seek re-election.
State Senator Catherine Pugh leads the 13 Democrats seeking the
mayor's office with 31 percent support, according to an opinion poll
early this month for the Baltimore Sun newspaper and the University
Her closest rival is former Mayor Sheila Dixon at 25 percent. Dixon
is making a comeback bid after being forced from office in 2010 for
allegedly misappropriating gift cards for low-income families.
No other Democrat had more than 9 percent support, the poll showed.
DeRay Mckesson, a nationally known activist with the Black Lives
Matter movement, polled at less than 1 percent.
The winner in the Democratic primary almost certainly will win the
November general election since Democrats outnumber Republicans 10
to one. Baltimore's population is mostly black; Pugh, Dixon and the
current mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, are African-American.
Five Republicans are running, and nine Green, Libertarian and
independent candidates are on the ballot. Polls open at 7 a.m. EDT
(1100 GMT) and close at 8 p.m. EDT (0000 GMT).
The city about 40 miles (60km) northeast of Washington exploded into
national and world headlines a year ago after the death of Freddie
Gray, a 25-year-old black man, from a broken neck suffered in police
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His death sparked protests and a day of rioting. Six police officers
- three white and three black - have been charged in Gray's death.
Rawlings-Blake, who has served since 2010, came under fire for her
handling of the crisis. She said in September that she would not
Chronic unemployment persists a year after the turmoil, with
joblessness at 7.1 percent at the end of February, above the
Nearly all the candidates are pledging aggressive job creation.
State Senator Pugh wants to use mobile units to help residents find
jobs; former Mayor Dixon has promised to triple training programs.
Crime is another concern. Homicides surged after Gray's death.
Baltimore has recorded 75 this year, up 14 percent from the same
period in 2015.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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